Why is no one willing to consider making the Ukraine a buffer state? The West gives up its idea to have it be a part of NATO and Russia allows the Ukraine to become, let’s call it, Finlandized.
Ask yourself that question. Look at the situation at large.
I don’t know what the answer is, but I have some ideas. I should not be surprised at Western/American recalcitrance and yet I still am, because the risks of this getting out of hand so far outweigh the rewards of having the Ukraine in the US orbit? When you think at it that way, it really is all about making sure Russia stays with its back against the wall.
I say all this as prefatory remarks to tonight’s Nelson Report which is just hard to digest.
SUMMARY: you don’t have to be a conservative or even a Republican to worry that Russia’s Putin is going to radically alter the “facts on the ground” in ways that strong, or stronger US/NATO action is already either too late, or simply irrelevant to head off. The Nelson Report generally loathes linkages like “perceived US weakness in Europe undermines faith in Asia”, but sometimes its unavoidable, especially with “POTUS” due out there for most of next week.
For now, Ukraine has asked the UN for support from peacekeeping troopsas it tries to stave off a revolt from pro-Russia protesters, seemingly reinforced (if not led) by thousands of “unmarked” Russian troops. Obviously this isn’t going to happen, with Moscow and Beijing on the Security Council.
But maybe that’s the idea…if Putin is capable of embarrassment. Why Kiev isn’t asking NATO? You experts please let us know. Meanwhile, notes the AP:
“A deadline set by the Ukrainian government for pro-Russian militants in the country’s east to vacate occupied buildings passed on Monday without signs of an effort to enforce it. Commandos who engaged in gunfights with men who had set up roadblocks stormed a Ukrainian police station in Slovyansk on Sunday, but there were no signs after the deadline passed at 9 a.m. Monday that they had attempted to approach the city again. Elsewhere in eastern Ukraine on Monday, a pro-Russian mob broke into a police station in the city of Horlivka, near the Russian border, The Associated Press reported.”
Following this, White House briefer Jay Carney cited “overwhelming evidence” that Russia is fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine, but suggested that the President has not yet concluded that Putin’s actions warrant broader sanctions on key Russian economic sectors.
“We are actively evaluating what is happening in eastern Ukraine, what actions Russia has taken, what transgressions they’ve engaged in,” Carney said. “And we are working with our partners and assessing for ourselves what response we may choose.”
The White House did confirm that CIA chief John Brennan visited the Ukrainian capital of Kiev over the weekend, breaking with the administration’s practice of not disclosing the director’s travel, the AP notes. Ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych accused Brennan of being behind Ukraine’s decision to send troops into the east to try to quash an increasingly brazen pro-Russian insurgency.
While U.S. officials of course denied those accusations, confirmation of Brennan’s visit could provide fodder for Russian officials to create a pretext for further incursions into eastern Ukraine, the AP suggests. A high-ranking European Union official said foreign ministers did decideMonday to sanction more Russians with asset freezes and visa bans, though they appeared to stop short of the broader penalties on Russia’s economy.
Prior to today’s Obama/Putin phone conversation, the President promised there will be new consequences for Russia’s continued aggression…and said he’s sending VP Joe Biden out there in a couple of weeks. As many commentators note, the White House is facing something of the same dilemma that gobsmacked the UK’s David Cameron, when The City let him know just what real financial sanctions could cost the British economy.
Hummm…is it either fair, or relevant to parallel the collective US/European failure in Syria to what we’re now seeing in South Central Europe? Certainly the situation seems clear to the government in Kiev…from this afternoon’s National Journal summary:
UKRAINE ASKS U.N. TO SEND TROOPS: Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov told U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon that the pro-Russia protesters in eastern Ukraine were “special units” sent by the Russian government. He vowed to take action and proposed a “joint operation with the U.N. peacekeeping forces.” (Lally/Englund, WaPo)
White House press release…if we get something on the Putin call we’ll send it right out. Meanwhile…
Readout of the President’s Call with President Hollande of France
President Obama spoke with French President Hollande today about the worsening situation in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists, seemingly with support and coordination from Moscow, have intensified their campaign to undermine and destabilize the Ukrainian government. The leaders underscored that Russia will face significant additional costs if it continues this behavior. President Obama noted that the government of Ukraine has acted with great restraint and praised the Ukrainian government’s efforts to unify the country by holding free and fair presidential elections on May 25 and pursuing an inclusive constitutional reform process. The two leaders also discussed ongoing cooperation in our bilateral relationship.
Please remember, I post the Nelson Report’s comments because Chris represents the centrist consensus in DC. This is not my position, obviously. It’s a window into the mindset in DC and it’s worrisome.